1st Edition

Wallace Stevens and the Contemporary Irish Novel Order, Form, and Creative Un-Doing

By Ian Tan Copyright 2024

    Wallace Stevens and the Contemporary Irish Novel is a major contribution to the study of the literary influence of the American modernist poet Wallace Stevens. Stevens’s lifelong poetic quest for order and the championing of the creative affordances of the imagination finds compelling articulation in the positioning of the Irish novel as a response to larger legacies of Anglo-American modernism, and how aesthetic re-imagining can be possible in the aftermath of the destruction of certainties and literary tradition heralded by postmodern practice and metatextual consciousness. It is this book’s argument that intertextual influences flowing from Stevens’s poetry towards the vitality of the novelistic imagination enact robust dialectical exchanges between existential chaos and artistic order, contemporary form and poetic precursors. Through readings of novels by important contemporary Irish novelists John Banville, Colum McCann, Ed O’Loughlin, Iris Murdoch, and Emma Donoghue, this book contemporizes Stevens’s literary influence with refence to novelistic style, themes, and thematic preoccupations that stake the claim for the international status of the contemporary Irish novel as it shapes a new understanding of “world literature” as exchange between national languages, cultures, and alternative formulations of aesthetic modernity as continuing project.

    Chapter One: Wallace Stevens and the "Irish Connection": Tradition and the Search for Order

    Chapter Two: In Search of Fictive Order: John Banville’s Scientific Tetralogy and Wallace Stevens’s "Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction"

    Chapter Three: Solipsism and Accommodation: The Function of Art in Banville’s The Blue Guitar and Stevens’s "The Man with the Blue Guitar"

    Chapter Four: Fragmented Vision and New Possibilities: Stevens’s "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" and Colum McCann’s formalistic experiments

    Chapter Five: The Place of the Mind at the End of Things: Stevens’s "The Snow Man" and Questions of Travel in Ed O’Loughlin’s Minds of Winter and Emma Donoghue’s Haven

    Chapter Six: Myth, Senescence, and the Limits of Transcendental Union in Wallace Stevens’s Late Poetry and Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea and The Message to the Planet


    Ian Tan is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He received his PhD in English from the University of Warwick, and is interested in modern and contemporary fiction and the relationship between modernist writing, poetics, literary theory and film. He is the author of Wallace Stevens and Martin Heidegger: Poetry as Appropriative Proximity (2022) and Understanding Barbara Kingsolver (forthcoming 2023), and the editor of Wallace Stevens in Theory (forthcoming 2023). His numerous essays on contemporary fiction and literary theory have appeared in venues such as English Literary History, Poetics Today, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, Textual Practice and Style.

    "Nuanced and wide-ranging, Tan’s important study is the first full-length exploration of the remarkable transatlantic and cross-generic affinity between American modernist poet Wallace Stevens and Irish novelists from John Banville and Colum McCann to Iris Murdoch and Emma Donoghue. Tan’s expert interrogation of the literary mediation of the philosophical opposition between appearance and reality reveals that in Stevens’ poetry, as in the Irish novel, ‘form is articulated under the pressure of its own unmaking’."

    -- Professor Lee M. Jenkins, School of English and Digital Humanities, University College Cork